LETTER: War-time crashes claimed many lives

Regarding the News’ good coverage of the wartime Mount Welch Liberator crash ...

Regarding the News’ good coverage of the wartime Mount Welch Liberator crash, I have a couple of historical comments and corrections to pass along to your reporters.

The article says it was the “largest single loss of life in B.C. during the Second World War,” which simply is not true, sadly enough.

By my count, there were nine Liberators written off in B.C. in eight fatal accidents during  the war and all 11 crew members were killed in four of them (Saltspring Island, Nitinat Lake, Bell Island and Mt. Welch).  There were 14 killed in the Liberator crash near Bamfield, which included several non-aircrew airmen and airwomen hitching a ride from Tofino to Pat Bay on leave.

The other accidents were the crash at Whonnock (seven killed), EW210 that had mid-air explosion and crashed in the water near Point Roberts (three killed) and the runway collision at Abbotsford (nine killed).

There was also a mid-air with a Kittyhawk, while practicing fighter affiliation work off the White Rock pier.  This Liberator landed with minimal damage, but the Kittyhawk went straight into the water and the pilot was killed.

The normal Liberator crew was 11, but when they were doing preliminary flying, navigation and bomb-dropping training without the air gunners on board, it was only seven.

Also, the writer suggests that one of the deceased RAF members would be going home soon, because the war in Europe had ended.

I know or have known a number of aircrew who trained on the Liberators at Abbotsford.  It appears that most of the crews were sent to the Far East, as the RAF had many Liberator squadrons in India and Ceylon, attacking Japanese forces in Burma, China, Thailand, Indochina, etc.  Also, some crews were sent to RCAF Eastern Air Command and RAF Coastal Command, who were mainly involved in suppressing German submarines in the Atlantic Ocean. RAF Bomber Command did not use Liberators on bombing missions in Northern Europe, but did have squadrons based in Egypt and Palestine, and later in Italy, for bombing targets in Southern Europe, Poland, etc.

Of course, the war in the Pacific was not yet over, so I would think that most of the crews graduating from No. 5 OTU would continue to head in that direction.  According to Carl Vincent’s book on the Liberator, the RAF received over 2,000 Liberators through purchase and Lend Lease.

I was aware that Chris Weicht and his Air Cadet squadron had erected a memorial several decades ago, but was not aware that the memorial was down on Airplane Creek and not up at the crash site.

Jerry Vernon, President, Vancouver Chapter, Canadian Aviation Historical Society

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